Battambang is famous for its pristine countryside. Battambang also has many tourist attractions to visit. Many first time travellers to the province might miss Wat Banan, easily accessible from Battambang via a tuk-tuk or motorbike.
Wat Banan is approximately 22 kilometres from Battambang city. The Wat is on the southwest side of the Sangker River. It can be reached using route 155. Luckily, the journey is almost as good as the destination. There are loads of opportunities to take breaks, enjoy the scenery or visit Wat Chhoe Teal on the way there.
Wat Chhoe Teal is well known locally and named after a tree. The tree produces a strong resin that the locals use to repair their boats. Notably, it is a protected species in Cambodia due to its local economic importance.
Sangker River is to the rear of the temple. Henri Mouhot, the Frenchman who rediscovered Angkor Wat, sailed along the Sangker in the 1850’s. The Sangkar and O Dambong rivers converge here. Mouhot’s description of the rivers is still fairly accurate today. Including the huge array of wildlife and landscapes seemingly untouched by time.
The trip to Wat Banan takes around 40 minutes from Battambang in a tuk-tuk. As you approach you will see breathtaking lotus-shaped towers rising from the backdrop of a mountain.
The climb up to Wat Banan is steep with approximately 300 steps to the top. Therefore, it would be wise to take some water with you. Alternatively, you can buy refreshments from one of the shops before you begin the steep walk up.
Tourist tickets cost $2 for entrance to the main temple,
Wat Banan is comprised of four towers constructed around a central temple complex. The original part of the temple dates back to approximately 1050, under the reign of Udayadityavarman I. It was originally made as a Hindu Temple but was rebuilt in the same stone as a Buddhist temple in 1219.
Wat Banan is mainly built from Sandstone and Laterite, with the latter stone producing a beautiful porous texture to the temple’s exterior. The temple is in remarkable condition given its age with all of the main temple towers still intact.
From Henri Mouhot’s accounts of the temple in the 1800’s, we know there was originally many Buddha statues. Also, a magnificent guardian deity at the entrance to the temple.
Unfortunately, like many of the world’s old temples, a lot of these have been partially or completely removed. This is owed to years of looting. There are still six original Buddha statues in the central spire. Even today devotees come to receive blessings from the resident monks.
In 2000, a replica statue of the original guardian deity was placed at the bottom of the mountain. It bears an incredible resemblance to the one Henri Mouhot describes in his original writings.
If you don’t fancy taking your lunch all the way to the top, as many local Khmer families do, There’s lake at the base of the mountain which is a good place to stop to eat. The lake is covered in water lilies. It is also a great place to chill out for the afternoon, with gazebos to sit under for shade.
The Magic Cave
Finally, if you walk along the path around the side of the mountain you will find the entrance to the magic cave. A place rarely visited. The old name of the cave translates as ‘’Cave of Sacred Water’’. According to local folklore, the water drunk from the stalactite drips brings the wisdom of the past, present and future.
The current name for the cave translates as “Walls of Gold”. Unfortunately, there isn’t any gold found to be found. What you do get though is an incredible beam of light that enters from a shaft in the ceiling and the refreshingly cool air making it a great refuge from the heat outside.